Lessons from Anne Heche’s estate battles

The Anne Heche estate remains embroiled in disputes as interested parties argue over who should be appointed administrator and what constitutes a valid will.

The conflict highlights the importance of making a will, naming an executor, and keeping those documents current.

Reportedly, Heche’s 20-year-old son Homer Laffoon has filed to assume control over his late mother’s estate. Meanwhile, James Tupper, Heche’s ex-boyfriend and father of her 13-year-old son Atlas, has also asked to either be named administrator or to have a neutral third party appointed.

Both parties have been throwing accusations at each other. Tupper claims Laffoon was estranged from his mother and has been preventing Atlas from retrieving belongings from Heche’s residence. Laffoon, alternately, claims Tupper has been interfering in his attempt to communicate with his younger brother.

The real issue is who has legal standing to be named administrator. Tupper claims Heche nominated him as executor in 2011. News reports suggest Tupper’s evidence is an email bearing Heche’s signature. Meanwhile, Laffoon has called that document into question, saying the document was unwitnessed and that the signature does not belong to Heche.

Some states will accept handwritten wills, also known as “holographic wills,” under certain conditions. In California, where Heche lived, a will can be deemed valid if it’s in the testator’s handwriting and signed. Some specialists watching the case have predicted that California courts will not accept the email, whether verifiably signed or not, as a holographic will. Interpretations suggest that the entire document, specifically the material provisions, must be handwritten to qualify.

Again, high-profile conflicts like this can serve as a reminder of the value of appointing a personal representative and having a legally executed will in place at any age.

Tragic accidents can interfere with the best “I meant to get around to that” intentions, and the resulting family conflict can have damaging, long-term effects.

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